Faithlife Sermons

Non-Criminal Forms of Abuse

Becoming a Church That Cares Well for the Abused  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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What do we mean by “non-criminal” abuse?
Easy to think all abuse is criminal.
To say that some form of abuse isn’t criminal doesn’t negate it’s effect and how wrong it is.
This just indicates who has authority over these situations
For illegal acts, the civil authorities deal with the situations
For immoral acts, the church will deal with the situations.
There are some forms of verbal abuse which are illegal, such as making a terroristic threat.
If ever in doubt, contact the local authorities.
Defining emotional, verbal, or psychological abuse is very hard. There are so many beliefs on what they are, it’s hard to pin down.
Here are qualities that may constitute verbal or emotional abuse:
Contradictory Demands
Isolating someone from family and friends
Blame-shifting for things you actually did wrong
Financial: no granting a spouse access to funds or forcing them to ask for money
Spiritual: making one-sided application of Scripture to demand, control, or condemn
All of these things with the effects of creating fear, shame, and indecisiveness
The more of these that are present in a relationship, the worse the situation is.
Imagine trying to tell someone who is doing this to a spouse and not realizing what they are doing is a form of abuse.
Now imagine trying to get the person to admit this is what they are doing.
This is the life of the person being abused.
Video - 3:18 (two speakers
What are helpful ways to differentiate between general conflict and emotionally abusive patterns?
So, this brings up the question, “ What is the point of differentiating ‘garden variety problems’ from emotionally abusive dynamics? Should anything be done differently?”
Yes, but the answer shouldn’t be “call the police.” So what do we do?
These three questions will help us answer this question.
#1 - Is the emotionally abusive person present for pastoral care?
If yes, then the ministry leader needs to focus on the individual than the marital or family state.
It needs to focus on:
raising self-awareness about the nature of the abusive spouse/parent’s action
garnering ownership for these actions once they can be acknowledged without minimization
developing strategies for dealing with irritating or distressing situations more effectively
The reason to focus on the individual is that when you focus on the marriage or family relationships, you’re validating that it isn’t only the abusers fault.
If this type of counseling is used, the abuser will use it to their advantage.
#2 - Are we only talking to the emotionally abused person?
These people feel stuck.
Things are bad, but are they bad enough?
There’s nothing criminal going on, so am I exaggerating things?
We need to respond to these people when they come and talk with us the same way we did when someone came to talk with us about physical abuse.
believe what they are saying
connect them with a counselor who is experienced in emotional abuse
We can also connect the person with a friend who would be understanding and give them spiritual support as well.
Before the person comes to us to tell us about emotional abuse, they are living in two worlds - home world & everyday world.
Once they talk to us, and third world is added, counseling - where they are understood.
Adding a friend, shouldn’t add a fourth, but someone who can walk in the three worlds they are in with them.
Video - 11:56 (two speakers)
What are best practices a church can utilize with members in an emotionally abusive relationship?
#3 - Is the emotionally abusive person a church member?
If the answer is yes, then there are other forms of intervention which can be used.
The church shouldn’t confront the abuser until the abused is ready to move forward.
A safety plan should also be in place with the abused.
An initial talk should be held with the alleged abuser in which the concerns which were brought up are mentioned and the person is listened to for their response.
Tangible examples of the abuse being used should be given.
Anything weak, will allow the person to feel they have won the argument and make the situation worse for the abused.
Video - 16:34 (two speakers)
What are best practices in the initial conversation with an emotionally abusive spouse?
If the situation is proven to be true, then the church discipline we discussed in Lesson 2 should be used.
Always stay focused on what the issue is.
When dealing with these situations, the abuser will use things to get us of the main issue.
We must have a documented discipline process that is well structured in order to move forward in trying to help both parties.
It is important that both spouses give permission for this form to be shared with the people who are trying to offer them help so that the helpers will truly know what is going on instead of being used by one side or the other.
This will also help in giving good advise as opposed to just taking stabs at trying to help.
Every person involved should be working with the same information.
Documenting this information will cause the pastoral team to be specific about the severity of sin and the hardness of heart being addressed.
This area will help develop discernment within the church to look for destructive communication patterns. The assessment skills and self-awareness gained through this will help you with other ministry areas within the church.
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